The desensitisation - and dismemberment - of modern human beings


Last updated at 18:02 29 February 2008

American director Gregory Hoblit is one of the better Hollywood hacks, and his credits include Fracture, the recent cat-and-mouse suspenser starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling, and Primal Fear, the superior thriller that catapulted Edward Norton to the Hollywood A-list.

His flawed but intelligent thriller, Untraceable, would like to be a cross between Se7en and The Silence Of The Lambs, and it falls well short of them. But it is watchable, and it does raise interesting questions.

The excellent Diane Lane (Unfaithful, A Walk On The Moon) plays Jennifer Marsh, an FBI special agent policing the internet for fraudsters and sexual predators.

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Stand-out: Diane Lane is excellent in Gregory Hoblit's Untraceable

She and her best buddy Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks) come across a website called which invites users to log on, promising that the more people who do so, the quicker the on-screen victim - initially a cat, but then human beings - will die.

The voyeurism of millions thus results in torture and death.

This premise may sound like a thin excuse for torture porn, and the film can certainly be accused of trying to have its cake and eat it: it's eager to denounce torture porn, yet it's quite happy to show people being burned, bled and shredded to death for our entertainment.

It also has more than its share of cliches, and these include the obstructive FBI boss, the guilt of a law enforcement agent having to leave a child's birthday party, and the death of a subsidiary law enforcement officer moments before he can give away the identity of the victim.

But apart from the sincerity of Diane Lane's performance and taut, tense direction, the film does have one other major asset: a strong central idea.

This is not so much a whodunit as a whydunit, and the killer's motivation is, for once, genuinely original.

And Untraceable has an important target: the horrific willingness of ordinary people to watch killings without any moral sense.

Untraceable isn't a great film, but it's unnervingly accurate about one thing: the desensitisation of far too many modern human beings.

It's all very well to denounce the makers of torture porn, but if no one paid to watch it, it would never get made.

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